Prime Minister John Key has this morning delivered his Waitangi Day Speech in which he reminded to all New Zealanders that treaty of Waitangi is one that is the most precious stone in New Zealand’s history.
“There is no occasion on which the weight of New Zealand’s history is felt in quite the same way as it is here in Waitangi on Waitangi Day.
“Anzac Day is also special but it reflects a different part of the New Zealand story. Waitangi Day is unique. It is marked across an emotional spectrum that ranges from great passion among some of those gathered here, to indifference from those Kiwis whose sole interest in the day is encompassed by the weather forecast.
“From time to time, governments and others have tried to engender a greater sense of national participation around this day. It would be good to see but I’m not sure that we can or should try to force it. We are not by nature a nation of flag-wavers.
“We come together here each year to commemorate the signing of the Treaty and, increasingly, people are using the occasion to look forward rather than back.
“Mostly, we have the Treaty settlement process to thank for that. By and large the argument that the settlements are justified, necessary, and both morally and legally the right thing to do, was won long ago.
“This Government has kept its promise to increase the pace of those settlements. That has required commitment, judgement and balance from all sides.
“The first negotiation began under a National government and National has a very good record of progressing settlements. The latest figures provided to me by the Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson show that since the historic claims settlement process began, a total of 59 Deeds of Settlement have been signed between the Crown and iwi.
Of those, 44 were signed by National governments and 33 of them by my government in its first four years in office. That’s a huge advance over the pace that was prevailing when we came in. At that time, it was calculated that if settlements continued at the rate at which they were then occurring – which was 1.6 settlements a year – we’d still be signing them in 2048”.
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